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WFNS - A History

WFNS-AM 910 Plant City – Tampa Bay’s first all-sports operation, WFNS AM-910, was formerly Plant City country and southern gospel WPLA, for many years the city’s main source for local news, sports, and information since there was no daily local newspaper. In 1987 Elvin and Brent Harmon (Harmon Communications) bought the 5 kw station from longtime owners Ercelle Smith and Al Berry, and switched the music to the Adult Contemporary “Play 91.” 

During the first year under the new ownership, on-air personalities who had worked there during the Smith/Berry years were replaced systematically with a new lineup of on-air personalities – morning man Dan Summers (formerly with Tampa’s WDAE), Jane Friend (from WPAS in Zephyrhills), and Wes Van Zile (from Lakeland’s WLKF).

Soon many of the station’s long-time employees, some of whom had worked there for 35 years or more, were no longer needed, including veteran News Director Jack Rushing, who started with WPLA in 1952, and Dick Shiflett, host of the popular Sunday afternoon Gospel Homecoming show, who had been with the Plant City station since 1965. The entire block of Sunday morning church programs and Shiflett’s Homecoming were eventually cancelled, and WPLA’s most popular and commercially successful program, the weekday morning This ‘n’ That talk show, on the air since the mid 1960’s, was also dumped.

Slowly, the station was losing its Plant City identity and being stripped of any connection with the strawberry city, even though it was still the city of license and the Harmon’s were bound by the FCC to serve the community’s interests. All these changes eventually lead to a complete break with the town, encompassing more than just the programming and people – it would include the station’s longtime call letters which had been a part of the Plant City community since 1949, the year W.A. Smith signed the station on the air.

In 1990, The Harmons switched WPLA’s calls and programming to WFNS (FaNS) and the station became Tampa Bay’s first all-sports station, Sportsradio 910. Plant City High School Raider football play-by-play was cancelled – a surprise since the station was now supposed to be a sports station. They also moved the offices and studios out of Plant City and into the WTMV Channel 32 building in Tampa at the corner of East Hillsborough Avenue and Orient Road, making it essentially a Tampa station.

WFNS’ signal coverage was a persistent problem so a deal was struck with Cox Broadcasting’s WSUN in St. Petersburg to simulcast some sports events. The Harmons sold the station to Cox in 1996-97 and the sports programming was replaced with ABC’s Solid Gold Soul satellite service, and then a 50's oldies format with the calls WSUN (moved over from AM-620). Cox sold AM-910 to Salem Broadcasting in 2001 and it became Christian talk WTWD.

Some names from WFNS history include Norm Hale (PD 1991-95), Doug White (sales manager-1991), Max Sitero (chief engineer-1991), Shannon Murdoch (chief engineer 1992-93), Darcel Schouler (promotions-1992), Art Schuler (sales manager-1993), Jonele Coniglio (promotions-1993), Dave Pecchia (sales manager 1994-95), Jennifer Farina (promotions-1994-95), Mark Guthrie (chief engineer 1994-95), Jim Prain (GM-1997), Mark Guthrie and David Solinske (chief engineers-1997), Jim Beard (sales manager-1999), and Nick Sanders (PD-1999). Sports/talk hosts included Dave Campbell (the station's first sports/talk host, a holdover from the WPLA days; PD-1990), Nancy Donnellan ("The Fabulous Sports Babe"), Todd Wright, Paul Porter, Doug Miles, Rick Serro, Mark Hagerty, Steve Duemig, and Scot Brantley.


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